While women won the right to vote in 1920, women are not equal in the eyes of the law. As the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in 2011: “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.” This will not change until we amend the U.S. Constitution with the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
An ERA Coalition/Fund for Women’s Equality poll conducted in October 2015 revealed 80% of those polled thought women were already guaranteed equal rights in the U.S. Constitution. But as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explains, “Every constitution written since the end of World War II includes a provision that men and women are citizens of equal stature. Ours does not.”
In this poll, 94% — 90% of men and 96% of women — said they would support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees equality to women and men. Democrats (97%), Republicans (90%) and Independents (92%) all overwhelming supported the amendment. Gender-based equality represents the present-day views of the vast majority of people across the United States.
Suffragist Alice Paul first introduced the ERA amendment in 1923. The ERA was added to the Republican Party platform in 1940 and Democratic Party platform in 1944. In 1972, nearly 50 years after it was first introduced, the ERA passed the House and Senate with the required two-thirds majority.
The amendment was then sent for ratification to the states, but only 35 of the 38 states needed had ratified it by the time the Congressionally imposed deadline of 1982 expired. Then Nevada voted in 2017 to ratify the ERA, Illinois ratified in 2018 and in 2020 Virginia ratified, becoming the 38th and final state required.
The only remaining barrier to the ERA becoming the 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the arbitrary 1982 ratification deadline. In February of 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation eliminating the ratification deadline. Now the U.S. Senate needs to do the same, by passing SJR 6.
Montana Senator Tester co-sponsored SJR 6, so a thank-you is in order. Montana Senator Daines has not taken a formal position; he needs to hear from Montanans about supporting the ERA and SJR 6.
The League of Women Voters Montana is launching a campaign to update people on the current status of the ERA amendment and encourage Montana’s U.S. senators to support SJR6. Our website (https://my.lwv.org/montana-league-women-voters) has a link to a short video covering the history of the ERA and where it stands today, as well as links to other informational sites.
What can you do? We urge people to contact Montana’s U.S. senators to support SJR 6 and move it through the legislative process. To help with this effort, LWV Montana created pre-addressed postcards with the image of “Lady Liberty” and the words “Equal Rights Amendment, It’s Time!” These postcards are available free and can be ordered on the LWV Montana website.
It’s time to contact Montana’s U.S. senators to ensure that the ERA becomes the 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Go to the LWV Montana website today to order a free “Lady Liberty” postcard kit to write to Senators Daines and Tester.
Equal Rights Amendment: It’s time!
Nancy Leifer and Nancy Maxson are co-presidents of the Missoula League of Women Voters.
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